Lorrie Goldstein, writing in the Toronto Sun, says that “The federal Conservatives these days are a textbook example of the political reality that if you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything … The latest example, ” he says, “is a bizarre brawl in the party over leadership contender Kellie Leitch’s logical proposal that immigrants to Canada should be screened for “anti-Canadian values” …[and] … Not only has Interim Tory Leader Rona Ambrose condemned the idea — thus displaying bias in a leadership race in which she should be neutral — but fellow leadership contender Michael Chong has accused Leitch of “dog-whistle politics”.“
First off, my only real complaint about what Dr Leitch said is precisely that it is not logical … it was not thought through. Dr Leitch, having been a minister, knows that any “screening” process for anything must be administered by the public service and I am pretty certain that she must know that what she suggests is practically impossible to implement.
But her proposal, thanks in part to it being “released” without adequate explanation, has provoke some useful debate amongst Conservatives which, in my opinion, is healthy, not self destructive.
A couple of days later Mr Goldstein reminded us, again in the Toronto Sun, that “Telling newcomers to abide by our values is nothing new,” and, of course, that’s very true, but telling them that “to become a citizen, you must understand the rights, responsibilities and privileges of citizenship, such as voting in elections and obeying the law. You must also show, in English or French, that you understand Canada’s history, values, institutions and symbols,” is markedly different from trying to figure out if they hold values that would, somehow or other, render them unable to learn and practice “Canadian values” whatever they may be.
Let’s first give Dr Leitch credit for two things:
- First ~ she has put some pizzaz into the CPC leadership race; and
- Second ~ she has improved her own “name recognition” by at least an order of magnitude or two. The famous literary wit Oscar Wilde said, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about;” well, Dr Leitch is certainly being talked about. Now, I think, the other candidates need to join the conversation, one way or the other, or risk “not being talked about.“
But, while I give Dr Leitch full marks for sincerely held beliefs about the evils of misogyny which, I think it’s fair to say, has been “imported” into Canada during the so called “fifth wave”* of immigration, which began in about 1970, under Pierre Trudeau’s government, from countries and cultures that do not share our modern, Euro-American, enlightened, secular, and liberal values, I suspect that there was a bit of “dog-whistle” politics in that questionnaire. But “dog-whistle” politics is not just about race or immigration, it is about sending coded signals to any and all groups, and, as I said, the Trudeau campaign used it, very effectively, in 2015, on environment/climate change issues, working from a base of anti-Harper propaganda that had been spread for nearly a decade by anti-modern crusaders. It, the climate change movement, has always had a whiff of the “children’s crusade” about it and the Liberals exploited that masterfully … it’s not just conservatives that send “coded messages” to one target audience.
As I said earlier, I believe that Kellie Leitch is actually doing our Conservative Party and, indeed, all of Canada a favour by opening up the issue of values … at home and abroad. I said, a week ago, that “what we are really talking about, behind the facade of fiscal and social policies, is re-establishing the culture that, in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, made us prosperous enough to afford the welfare state in the first place. It is our culture that needs to be rebuilt ~ ‘ours’ whether you and your great grand-parents were born in Canada or whether you just got your landed immigrant card this week, it is based, as I have said before, on “our enlightened, secular, Anglo- Saxon, liberal democratic values [that] are the “gold standard” for all Canadians.” Now we need to hear more from Dr Leitch about what core values she proposes and then we need to hear from all the others on the same subject …
… and I hope that Conservative elder statesmen, provincial leaders and commentators, from all wings” of the party ~ Red Tory to socon ~ will also join the debate and broaden the scope from a mere (and impractical) screening proposal to a programme aimed at inculcating “Canadian values” in all of us: newcomers and native born Canadians, alike …
… Dr Leitch has opened a door through which we should all be willing (and able) to walk and then engage in a civil, meaningful, spirited debate about Conservative principles. I think most of us know what we want even if many of us have difficulty in articulating our own, individual vision. We need to listen to everyone’s point of view, especially to those with which we are inclined, right off the bat, to disagree, and then we need to enunciate a Conservative Party statement of Canadian values … a statement which, we must expect, more than half of all Canadian voters will find acceptable and attractive, and which will cause them to consider supporting their local Conservative candidate.
The Globe and Mail, in an editorial, says that “The suggestion that there are government-defined “Canadian values” is frightening.” I disagree! I do agree with the “Good Grey Globe” that “In this country, new citizens swear an oath to “faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfill [their] duties as a Canadian citizen.” There are no prescribed religious or cultural beliefs, just a vow to respect our constitution and our laws, and to accept the consequences of failing to do so,” and I, at least, do not see (nor would I support) any proposals to change that. Dr Leitch is accused, in that editorial, of toying with the notion of “a government that tells people what to believe and how to think.” I think that goes way too far. The Globe and Mail concludes by saying that “the state doesn’t get to tell you what Canadian values are.” I’m not so sure … it already does so, in part, in the “instruction” provided to New Canadians when they study for their citizenship exams and to each and every one of us during our school years. What’s so “frightening” about an informed, civil, even noisy debate about just what those values are and should be? As Shakespeare says, the lady, in the case the Globe, doth protest too much. I believe this is the Laurentian Elites speaking.
In a column in the Toronto Sun, Candice Malcolm explains how Canadian officials used to, until 2002, screen pretty much every single applicant for immigration for “Canadian values.” That process (individual interviews) was, as she says, “expensive, and cost-conscious governments have been reluctant to bring it back … [but] … it isn’t outside the realm of possibility for the Canadian government,” if we want to be more selective than we are now, because, presumably, we have seen a troubling rise in events that suggest that some immigrants do not and do not wish to share our (currently undefined) values.
Kellie Leitch, herself, says, in MacLeans, that “she believes in a “unified Canadian identity” that includes equality of opportunity, hard work, giving back to the community, equality of men and women, as well tolerance for all religions, cultures and sexual orientations and the rejection of violence as a way to solve problems.” Those are all pretty mainstream Conservative values and, as she asks: ““Are you saying to me that we can ask someone about their income, but we can’t ask them if they believe in equality of women?”” It might involve proposing to spend a awful lot more time and money on immigrant (and refugee?) screening than we have done for the past 14 years but, perhaps, that a price worth paying IF the problems of e.g. equality and violence are as bad as some people tell us.
So, rather than this being a divisive, “self destructive” issue it can be and should be a chance to engage our party and, indeed, all Canadians in a healthy, constructive discussion about ourselves and our values.
Of course, getting people talking about values is not an easy “sell” for politicians, as editorial cartoonist Brian Gable illustrates in the Globe and Mail:
Finally, let’s, please, remember that it is 2016 and we will be having this debate in 2017 and so, while I assert that our values need to be grounded in 1867 and 1917 and 1957, they have to be values for Canada in 2017 ~ the country we have, not the country some people might wish we had …
… and what we need is civil, reasoned, inclusive discourse, not any more of this:
* Immigration to Canada ~
- First wave: early 15th & 16th century French settlers and early British settlers up util 1812;
- Second wave: 19th century;
- Third wave: 1900-1914; (immigration slowed to a trickle in the Great Depression and during World War II)
- Fourth wave: 1940s to the late 1960s.